As the warm days slip into cool, crisp autumn ones, you will probably find a host of clients looking for fall portraits. Seniors often get their pictures taken in the fall for the upcoming school year. Families love to get fall pictures as the leaves turn bright colors. Most photographers also love that they can still use outdoor, natural backgrounds for their images instead of working with all of the lighting equipment and manufactured backdrops of the studio. Fall is certainly the most popular time of the year for outdoor pictures like these.
However, photographers like you might be a little less comfortable with the lack of control that outdoor photography presents. Here are some fall photographer tips for great outdoor portrait sessions.
As you already know, lighting is a really big deal for making great photographs. This is especially true for outdoor photography when the lighting is different throughout the day. Fall is an especially good time to shoot during golden hour, since the golden colors of the season are really brought to life during the rising or setting sun. But, that doesn’t mean you should count out the cloudy days; overcast days are a great time for getting a soft, even light that doesn’t cause harsh shadows or make your subject squint.
If you are shooting with an SLR, use a polarized filter to boost contrast and colors. The fall colors will be richer and more vibrant. These filters don’t cost a lot, but if you don’t have one, underexpose your photos by a stop or two. Slightly underexposing the pictures will deepen the saturation. Then, you can use your photo editing software, like Photoshop or Lightroom, to increase the contrast and warm the saturation.
Don’t let the camera dictate your pictures, adjust your settings for your shot. Even though the lighting during the day will be bright, open up your lens to a lower f-stop for a shallow depth-of-field that will make your fall backgrounds blend into a beautiful jumble of blurry colors and shapes. In order to make up for the lens setting, you will want to have your ISO set very low and adjust your shutter speed to get an ideal exposure.
The amazing thing about fall backgrounds is just how many things look good in the backdrop of a shot. You can find a big patch of dying weeds, and (especially during golden hour) the shot will look like a beautiful golden texture that allows your subject to pop in the foreground. Or, you can shoot with brilliantly colored trees in the background and the color and contrast will make an amazing backdrop. Don’t get caught up in the idea of shooting leaves during the fall, think more about the colors and textures in the landscape around you and try to use them to frame your shot in a beautiful way.
After just stating not to focus too much on the leaves, let’s also mention some of your shots can feature them. Let your subjects jump in the leaves, throw the leaves or sit in the leaves. The fallen leaves can make a great prop that will naturally add a fun element to the pictures as your subjects loosen up to enjoy the shoot.
Fall days, especially golden hour, can be colder than you might expect. Make sure you ask your subjects to bring plenty of layers that can be added or removed as the weather (or picture) dictates. This means, a subject should wear a shirt they like and bring a sweater or jacket to go over that. They could even bring a scarf for some shots and gloves for in-between shots. Warmer subjects are always happier subjects that take better portraits. You could even bring big blankets to wrap your subjects in to and from locations.
Make sure you ask your clients why they are requesting a session in the fall. Surprisingly, not everyone wants fall colors, and some clients might just be scheduling photos in the fall because of need or convenience. While one client might want the dying foliage and river in the background during golden hour, another client might prefer a brick wall. Talking to your clients will help you reveal potential inspirations for your photo shoot.